Islamabad (AsiaNews) – “It is a sad incident, a sad day not only for minorities” but also “for humanity,” said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi as he spoke to AsiaNews, after hearing the news about the coldblooded murder of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. “This should be an eye opener for minorities and the government. How much more blood will it take to realise that enough is enough,” he said. Indeed, how much time will it take for Pakistan to find peace and harmony. In the meantime, a Christian source, anonymous for security reasons, said that there is a “state within the state”, made up of fundamentalist elements “who commit crimes and act with total impunity”.
As he remembered Shahbaz Bhatti’s precious work on behalf of Catholics and other minorities, Mgr Anthony could not stop speaking of such a “sad incident,” a bitter day not only for minorities but for mankind as well.
The prelate knew the minister’s everyday schedule. “Bhatti’s daily routine was that he used to go to meet his mother, pray with her. He used to call me and ask me to pray for him every morning,” the bishop said.
Badly shaken by the murder, he went on talking about Bhatti. “I remember him as a child; he regularly attended the Church; he was passionate since childhood. He was under threat and the government did not provide sufficient security.” He “was a brave man, a man of courage, he took a stand for the minorities,” the bishop of Islamabad reiterated.
“When he took the oath for the new cabinet,” after President Ali Zardari had it reshuffled, “he said he would fight till the last drop of his blood. He proved himself, stood firm and paid the price by his blood. This should be an eye opener for minorities and the government. How much more blood will it take to realise that enough is enough,” he concluded.
In the meantime, a Christian source, anonymous for security reasons, said that there is a “state within the state”, made up of fundamentalist elements “who commit crimes and act with total impunity”.
“There are elements working inside the government. There is a state within the state,” the source explained, “that is more powerful, moved by an extremist ideology”
“By contrast, ordinary citizens, civil society, moderate Muslims, i.e. the majority, want to live peacefully, but they are powerless vis-à-vis fanatical and fundamentalist movements.” In the end, such a “deplorable incident” takes away “courage and hope from religious minorities and civil society.”
This is the second high profile murder after the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, “who was killed for his opposition to the blasphemy law and his work in favour of religious minorities”.
The end result will be that “Minorities will be silenced, their voice suppressed along with those who defend them.” On this occasion as in previous ones, “violence is committed in the name of religion.”
Indian Christians also slammed the brutal murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, killed because he opposed the draconian blasphemy law. Human rights activists have appealed to the United Nations and the international community to put pressures on the government of Pakistan, which so far has been unable to stop extremists.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council o Indian Christians (GCIC), called for the “immediate repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws”.
On previous occasions, the “GCIC asked the Indian government to raise the matter with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Pakistani government and with the international community to save the life of the mother of two children sentenced to death,” namely Asia Bibi.
For the GCIC, the Pakistani government has “sponsored Islamic terror against minorities and women,” and this might “trigger cycles of violence in other Islamic nations against minorities.”
The Vatican also sent words of grief. The assassination of Pakistani Minority Affairs Minister Shabbaz Bhatti is a “new act of violence of a terrible gravity,” Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said. It shows the correctness of papal warnings against anti-Christian violence and threats to religious freedom.
"To our prayers for the victim, our condemnation of the act of unspeakable violence, our closeness to the Pakistani Christians subject to hate, we add an appeal concerning the dramatic urgency of the defence of religious freedom and of Christians who are suffering from violence and persecution," the director of the Vatican Press Office added. (DS)
(Jibran Khan and Nirmala Carvalho contributed to the article)